I started being interested in the Brontë sisters when I found my mother watching an adaptation of Jane Eyre at a very interesting part - I think the introduction of Bertha, but I don't remember much about it. I did think we were in the house we lived in until I was eleven, but looking up the adaptation I think it was, it was made in 1997 which dates it a year after we moved out. Anyway, the upshot is that I must have been about twelve when my mother told me all about the literary sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne, and their ill-fated brother Branwell. Their older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, and other lesser-known facts I found out by my own reading of an easy book about the family in the school library. I read Jane Eyre when I was thirteen, and certainly I found it difficult, but I also loved at least bits of it. I then tried Wuthering Heights, decided I'd better wait a few years to try again, and went on with Anne's two novels: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall first, which I found very interesting, then her first novel Agnes Grey, which I liked but not so much.
Without going into too much more detail, I've read most of their works at least one since then, including some poetry and childhood efforts by Branwell as well as his siters. I've only recently started on Charlotte's three less famous novels; I read The Professor last year, am now on Shirley and have yet to read Villette (another that I tried to read when I was younger but couldn't manage it). I decided it was time I read these books when my brother Jake and a friend of ours decided to go to North Yorkshire on holiday. The Brontës lived in West Yorkshire, so a little way away from where we were going; but I live in Hertfordshire, and if I was ever going to get on a train and visit their home in a day then this was my chance. So, on Wednesday 24th August 2016, I fulfilled my wish to visit the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
The friend didn't come on this trip, but Jake did, and all photographs featuring me were taken by him. I took all the photographs I'm not in (not always particularly well but never mind)! We took two normal trains to Keighley Station, where Branwell used to work as a rail clerk (and got into some trouble); from there, we took a steam train to Haworth, just like Branwell used to do!
From the station, it is necessary to climb a couple of very steep hills to reach the parsonage. Haworth Main Street is a just one big hill, and it's longer and steeper than one might hope! Anyway, we did it, and had a little sit-down outside the very church where Partick Brontë was the parson. Below is a picture of me by the church, and beside that a family of chickens (see if you can spot which is which - ha ha joke!). The hen and her chicks were pecking around in the churchyard and were too cute not to be photographed. Could they be actual Brontë chicken descendants...?
Here is the outside of the schoolroom (I think you're sometimes allowed in, but not that day), and a close-up of the notice that explains it.
Inside the museum, I was allowed to take photographs without a flash - a rule which didn't stop one woman from attempting to destroy the handwritten text on one of the children's famous 'little books'! The exhibits below include the picture I took of one of those books, along with some artwork, letters and regular books that give you an idea of its size. The children's early creative endeavours are very famous, and I was particularly keen to see them. It's true that the handwriting is pretty much impossible to read - translating the works for print must have been a huge undertaking. Also, here's me standing on the steps on my way into the museum.
Below are some more exhibits. I was particularly interested in the dog collars belonging to Flossy (the small ones), and to Keeper (the big one), who apparently had a reputation for being fierce. You can also see Anne's writing box and Emily's christening mug. The dining room table is very important! The family used to write here and, according to the museum guidebook, at least some of Agnes Grey, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre were composed at this very table (it also says that Charlotte started Jane Eyre in Manchester, when looking after her father following his famous cataracts operation).
The grandfather clock is remembered as being very important in Patrick Brontë's nightly routine, as he would wind it on the way up to bed and tell the children not to stay up too late (even when they were no longer children).
It's not obvious from the picture that the clock is about halfway up the stairs, where they turn a corner. A few steps above this, there is another corner, which provides a good place to stand and photograph clock so long as there aren't too many visitors on the stairs with you. I had an opportunity and I took it!
Just one more thing I really need to show you: the famous Black Bull pub, which we photographed on the way back down to the station.
My fellow Brontë enthusiasts will know that Branwell more or less drank himself to death - although there were other factors, including opium abuse and, perhaps most significantly, tuberculosis.
Did you notice the view behind me? Yorkshire is very beautiful, and we had some other interesting adventures there. I paid my second ever visit to Whitby, which is a wonderful place (though it has its setbacks in the peak season), and which also has literary associations. We got lost a few times, in the car and on foot, and we had extremes of wet and hot weather. Our Haworth day was one of the least stressful for Jake and me, once we'd found Malton Station and got past the fear of missing our first train, but meanwhile back in North Yorkshire our friend - who is only in his early twenties (bless him) - got the back of his car dented by a hit-and-run driver. It's almost like some kind of weird cosmic balancing act, because while he was having a bit of a nightmare with that, I had a wonderful time at the Brontë family home.
For more information about the museum, you can check out the website: https://www.bronte.org.uk/